Intel NUC Poor WiFi - External Antenna Mod

Discussion in 'Hardware' started by Ian, Mar 20, 2017.

  1. Ian

    Ian Administrator

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    I bought an Intel NUC a long time ago to use as a media player, but it has since been re-purposed and positioned far away from our router. The WiFi signal strength is extremely poor - so bad that is must be the only thing in our house that can't get a reliable signal. I can place my Samsung S7 right next to it, and that will have a full signal - whereas the Intel NUC adaptor struggles to maintain a reliable connection.

    Instead of resorting to homeplugs or a high gain USB wifi adaptor, I wanted to make use of the onboard WiFi card... so I made a few modifications! I bought a pair of external WiFi antennas, plus a pair of tails to connect them to the existing onboard card.

    In my case, the onboard WiFi was an Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 3165, a small M.2. card which required MHF4 antenna cables. If you have a mini-PCI WiFi card, you may need U.FL cables instead. Please check which connections you require before buying a cable, as they look very similar - I made the mistake of buying the more common U.FL at first.

    The images were only taken as a last-minute thought, as I realise it may help someone else, so please excuse the poor quality.

    The tails will look a little like this, which allow you to clip on to the existing wifi card and attach external antenna somewhere on the case:

    Tails.jpg

    My particular model Intel NUC has a couple of screws on the back of the case, which looked like they could be widened a little and then the external antenna connection poked though (whilst the nut would also secure the case in the same way the screw did).

    Here are the screws on the rear, which will soon be replaced:

    1.jpg
    You'll need to remove the base of the NUC case, then separate the hard drive and connecting cables (easily re-attached at a later date). If you have a different model NUC, please check that the connection placement fits when the case is closed.

    I checked the antenna tails fit the onboard mini coax connections (2) and removed a reinforcing bar from the case (1). The reinforcement bar holds the VGA connector and contains threaded holes for the two screws. This bar will also need to have the holes drilled wider to accept the antenna connections.

    2.jpg

    Before drilling, I knocked up a bit of wood to prevent the case from bending too much - as I didn't want it to snap. I'd recommend doing the same if possible:

    3.jpg

    Here's the bar which had the existing holes widened:

    4.jpg

    Once you've widened both sets of holes, re-attached the bar and feed the antenna connections through (then tighten with a nut):

    5.jpg

    Be sure to insulate the old Wifi connections once detached - they could short out components if you don't do that. Here's what it looks like inside:

    6.jpg

    Once the aerials are attached, it looks like they were always meant to be there :D:

    7.jpg


    I managed to get an unstable 10-20Mbps connection (before) up to a very stable 120-150Mbs connection (after). The difference in performance is huge! This NUC is very far from the router, so if you have it positioned sensibly, the speed improvements should be much larger (although perhaps not as unstable and slow to begin with).

    I hope this helps anyone else with NUC wifi problems. Post a pic if you give it a go too :).
     
    Ian, Mar 20, 2017
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  2. Ian

    V_R ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Moderator

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    Nicely done. :thumb:
     
    V_R, Mar 20, 2017
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  3. Ian

    Abarbarian Acruncher

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    Great mod Ian :thumb:
     
    Abarbarian, Mar 23, 2017
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  4. Ian

    Ian Administrator

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    Cheers guys, it's been running for quite a few days now and has improved Wi-Fi reception enormously - not a single dropout :D. It had been frustrating me for a while, as since we upgraded the router to Orbi, the signal strength has been crazy high throughout the house and yet the Intel NUC remained unable to take advantage of it.
     
    Ian, Mar 23, 2017
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  5. Ian

    bootneck02

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    Great stuff Ian, :thumb:
     
    bootneck02, Apr 4, 2017
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  6. Ian

    bechrissed

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    Nice write up Ian, thanks. One question though: will these antenna's also be an improvement for bluetooth connection? I know the bluetooth chip is on the same card but I don't know if it uses these antenna connections. I thought i've heard one antenna connection is for 2.4ghz and the other is used fo 5ghz wifi.

    My nuc is on a wired network but I would love to improve bluetooth connections! They are very unstable at the moment.
     
    bechrissed, Oct 6, 2017
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  7. Ian

    Ian Administrator

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    Welcome to the forums @bechrissed, I'm glad you found it useful :).

    I'm don't know as much about Bluetooth, but from what I understand they do use the same antenna on these cards - so yes, I think it may help if you perform this modification. I don't know if it'll be enough to help the problem, but if you can get ahold of the parts cheaply, it's worth a shot.

    If you try it, do let us know how it works out :thumb:.
     
    Ian, Oct 7, 2017
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